Our 2018 Family Reunion

On March 31st 2018 our family congregated at The Anchorage for a reunion. The house was full and the three grandsons and a new granddaughter dominated events. Also the weather proved unseasonably cold and wet. I was surprised to find that the three grandsons, aged 4, 5 and 6 years were very taken with the house collection of teddy bears, especially the very big one that was taller than the boys. These had a very rough week as the boys enjoyed wrestling with the big dolls on the floor. However it was not very long before the boys discovered that the big house with its twelve rooms was an ideal place to play hide and seek that went on every evening. When invited to hide by the boys, I spent a considerable time behind the open utilities room door. Little voices called from distant rooms: ‘Give us a clue, Grandad’. So I would let out a low whistle that was hard to place, but was eventually found just before their bed time.

Our new granddaughter Isobel at only 8 months also played a major role. She is a quiet baby with a big smile and everyone spent time with her. One of the grandsons in particular spent much time with her cavorting around and making faces to make her laugh. For the adults we as usual took turns in the preparation and cooking of the evening meal. My wife Anne started the ball rolling on the first day with a large roast leg of lamb with roast potatoes and vegetables. I did two BBQs. Joanne and Steve brought in fish and chips from the famous Hake Inn in Hakin (only some 3 miles away). Alice and Brendan did their much appreciated paella that went down very well. All this was not appreciated by the three grandsons who preferred an assortment of fish fingers, pasta, yogurts and biscuits.

Because of the cold north wind and cloudy showery weather we had to make do with short beach trips mainly to our local sandy beach of Sandy Haven. Here I had a number of ideas to keep the children occupied. First I showed them my box of painted shells from Sandy Have beach. Also in this box is my ‘world record’ large limpet shell – the largest limpet shell I have ever found on Sandy Haven. I challenged the grandsons and their parents to see if they could find a bigger one. So, rather than walk the children across the cold windswept tidal creek, we drove the children across to the car park at Sandy Haven beach where it proved a short but muddy walk onto the public beach which was completely sheltered beneath the low cliffs. There much effort was made in collecting shells that abounded there after the winter storms. These were carefully carried back to the Anchorage and washed. Then on wet days painting shells became a major event. Eventually the painted shells were all carefully packed away to be taken back to the various homes as presents for friends. Each day I had to open up my box of painted shells so that the children’s largest limpet shell could be compared with my ‘record breaker’. Surprisingly nobody found a bigger one. However I was surprised when my oldest son went out to his car and searched to return with his ‘record breaker’ limpet that he had collected in the Firth of Forth, where he lives. There was great interest when the two big shells were compared and they proved to be of exactly the same size.

Again because of the poor weather that restricted us to our local beach under the cliffs, I taught the grandchildren another trick. I showed them some bright yellow winkle shells that can be found on the beach. I explained that in some small island countries in the Pacific Ocean there were no rocks except sand and coral. So it was not possible to make metal. So these islands had no metal money. Instead they used sea shells. In particular in the Marquesas Islands the people put palm tree fronds in the lagoons where small cowrie shells would grow on them. These were collected and cleaned and used for money. So I explained to the grandsons that if they collected the rare yellow shells they could exchange them for real metal money and use it to buy sweets and bubble mixture and other essentials. I even went into my garage and brought out my box of yellow winkles. I explained that as I spent a lot of time at Sandy Haven I had become a yellow winkle ‘millionaire’ with a whole box of these shells.

So it was back to the beach in search of yellow winkle shells. There was much debate about exactly how much a yellow winkle shell rated in 2018. We established that a large yellow winkle shell was worth 20 pence, but each golden one was worth 30 pence. One grandson went home carrying with him only three winkle shells, a yellow one, a golden one and a tiny brown one. I had valued his collection at 52 pence and he was delighted with his wealth and being only 5 years old was uncertain of is purchasing power.

We did manage between showers to get down to the crabbing bridge but it was very cold in the wind there and the visits were necessarily short. Also there were very few crabs but enough were caught to satisfy the young ones. They were carefully released and watched as they made their way ‘back home’.

On only one morning did the sun shine and so all set off for Marloes Sands where with four cars we were charged £20 for parking in the car park run by the National Trust (NT). Some of us are not happy that local people are charged so much to go to our own beaches. Happily a polite friendly attendant was present who did far more than just grunt ‘five pounds’. He explained that if we were members of the National Trust, then the parking was free. Also having purchased a ticket we could then, on that day, go into the NT car parks at Bosherston, Broadhaven South, Stackpole Quay, Stackpole Court Site, Martins Haven and Porthclais. Adjacent to the NT car park is a field where later in the summer when the mud has dried the farmer allows parking at only £3 per car.

We were the first to descend to the beach that morning and it was high tide with a big surf running. We sat on the rocks and the grandsons threw stones into the surf. I showed them how to kick or throw a ball into the surf and how the surf always brought it back. After an hour or so a crowd had gathered at the end of the foot path and the sea had retreated enough for us all to walk further along this magnificent beach. Our oldest son and his partner had brought wet suites and were soon surfing in the waves. However by mid- afternoon the clouds returned with the cold wind, so we packed our gear and walked back up the mile long foot path to the car park. It had been a delightful and refreshing day with the magnificent surf to admire and photograph.

So the week passed again and we look forward to our next reunion in 2019. It is a splendid opportunity for the grandchildren to get know one another and to play together, as it is for our now adult children to return to the places we brought them as children and to meet up again. Now they have their own spouses and their own children and can see their children’s interactions and exchange information and make plans for the future.

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